Goodstart 2021 Annual Report confirms progress towards strategic goals despite COVID-19

Goodstart 2021 Annual Report confirms progress towards strategic goals despite COVID-19

by Jason Roberts

November 29, 2021

Goodstart Early Learning, Australia’s largest provider of early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, has continued to make progress towards achieving its medium-term strategic goals despite the many challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to its 2021 Annual Report.

 

“Last year, in my first report as Chair, I predicted that we would emerge even stronger from the rigours of the pandemic, and I am proud that Goodstart has done just that,” shared Paul Robertson, Chair of the Board. 

 

“COVID-19 has given us new insight into the strength of our organisation, the rich diversity of experience in the communities we are a part of, the courage and resilience of our people, and the passion Goodstarters bring to our purpose,” he added. 

 

These sentiments were echoed by Julia Davison: “In the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Goodstart has continued progress towards our goal of becoming a world leading early learning organisation that puts children first.” 

 

Quality continues to improve with 98% of services now rated meeting or exceeding

 

Over the course of 2020/21 Goodstart’s overall quality ratings as measured by the National Quality Standard (NQS) continued to move higher with 98 per cent of its 664 centres rated as meeting or exceeding, an increase of 2 per cent from last year. 

 

A third of Goodstart centres, around 221, are now rated exceeding the NQS with two centres, Goodstart Tuggerah and Goodstart Bathurst, awarded the coveted Excellent rating by ACECQA

 

Building on the Key Educator Relationship approach launched in 2018, Goodstart’s Environmental Rating Scale (ERS) program, which benchmarks centre quality on a room-by-room basis, is now being used across the network and has been a key driver of practise uplift. 

 

“Practice uplift is now a continuous process, with ERS used by centres to reflect on and improve practice”, Ms Davison said.  

 

The initiative is complemented by the empowerment of educational leaders to drive practice uplift, and the release of new tools targeted at the areas that make the most difference to children’s development.

 

Finalisation of new Enterprise Agreement a major achievement for the year

 

The largest workforce-focused project for the Group in 2020/21 was the finalisation of its Enterprise Agreement, which involved negotiations with three unions and more than 80 delegates over 12 months.

 

The final agreement, which will cover 15,639 employees, will see: 

 

  • the improvement of starting wages for early childhood teachers;,
  • educators paid 3-5 per cent above award rate;  
  • more non-contact time built into rosters; 
  • more flexible working arrangements including rostered wellbeing days, paid parental leave; and, 
  • a pathway for part time team members to transition to full time. 

 

“Our new 2021 Enterprise Agreement has substantial improvements to wages and conditions to better recognise the quality and professionalism of early childhood teachers and educators and support attracting and retaining great people to work in the sector,” Ms Davison said. 

 

“Teachers in Goodstart centres will now be paid the same starting wages as teachers in public schools, and all Goodstarters will enjoy access to paid parental leave.”

 

COVID-19 uncertainty contributed to defensive posture for managing the group 

 

Uncertainty around the duration and extent of the impact of COVID-19 on operating conditions pushed Goodstart towards a more defensive posture when it came to managing the financial and operational affairs of the Group. 

 

A freeze on senior staff wage increases and bonuses, significant cuts to travel and pairing back expenses in some programs helped save around $38 million which, when combined with capital expenditure deferrals of $50 million and social inclusion program deferrals of $4.7 million, helped sustain a solid cash position of $69 million at year end.

 

From a revenue perspective, total revenue increased around 12 per cent to $1.3 billion year-on-year with early learning centre revenue improving substantially, up 25 per cent due largely to a year of uninterrupted revenues, unlike 2020 which had around three months of free child care included within it, and full year contributions from the centres involved in the merger with Big Fat Smile and the acquisition of 23 Mission Australia centres in 2019. 

 

That being said Group occupancy fell 1 per cent year-on-year across the network which saw some change with 11 centres exited and four new centres acquired. Goodstart’s fee increase for 2020/21 was delayed until October 2020 and was broadly in line with the sector average after taking into account the fee freeze in Victoria.

 

Goodstart acknowledge the key role Federal and State Governments through pandemic

 

The severity of the impact of COVID-19 on the ECEC sector and the Australian economy, and the swiftness and magnitude of the Federal and State and Territory Governments COVID-19 support measures, played an important part in the outcomes of the 2020-/1 year. 

 

Total government grants received, including JobKeeper, amounted to $74.7 million in the year which, when combined with the prior year’s total of $179.4 million, underline the scale of support that Goodstart – and the broader ECEC sector,= – have received from the Government.   

 

“We [emerged from the pandemic stronger] with unparalleled support from the Federal Government. The Commonwealth’s Job-Keeper and ECEC funding schemes ensured our centres remained open and that our in-centre teams were able to support children and families throughout the peaks of the pandemic last year,” Mr Robertson said. 

 

To read more about Goodstart’s other achievements in 2020/21, view their 2020-21 Annual Report here

 

Other highlights include: 

 

  • the appointment of the ECEC sector’s first Chief Safety Officer (Page 13) 
  • Goodstart’s increased commitment to personalised family experiences (Page 15)
  • strong inclusion contributions despite COVID-19 uncertainties (Page 19)
  • ongoing advocacy and impact work (Page 21).
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